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tv   Charlie Rose  PBS  May 26, 2014 12:00pm-1:01pm PDT

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>> charlie: welcome to the program. as we go into memorial day weekend, conversations we have done with men who wear the uniform. we begin with general stanley mcchrystal. >> the taliban saw opportunity. they came back in said, look, what's happening? you're going back to the bad old days and the americans are not going to solve your problem, and they started to find fertile ground, not initially in huge places but slowly. they were able to grow their political power in some cases militarily. we made mistakes in not seeing it happen early enough. not reacting strongly enough when we did. we were underresourced in many ways, but probably most we were underresourced in understanding. >> charlie: we continue with general raymond odierno. >> unfortunately, eve several friends and young men and women i know personally who have given
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their lives for this country, who have been severely injured for their country, who did it because they want to protect our security and, so, i will be prepared and will do everything i can to get our soldiers prepared to do that. but those of us have experienced it, you don't want to do it unless you have to. >> charlie: and we conclude with general h.r. mcmaster. >> there's never been a silver bullet solution to war. you had the submarine, bomb, radar, machine gun, tank. so we have to recognize our future adversaries will have some capabilities we have now and disrupt what they perceive our strengths. it's a balanced force that you play rock paper scissors with anybody. >> charlie: on this memorial day weekend, we hear from three generals stanley mcchrystal, raymond odierno, and h.r. mcmaster, next.
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>> there's a saying around here: you stand behind what you say. around here, we don't make excuses, we make commitments. and when you can't live up to them, you own up and make it right. some people think the kind of accountability that thrives on so many streets in this country has gone missing in the places where it's needed most. but i know you'll still find it, when you know where to look. captioning sponsored by rose communications
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from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> charlie: general stanley mcchrystal is here, was commander of the international security ace assistance force and the united states forces in afghanistan from 2008 to 2009. also played a key role in iraq and commanded the joint special operations command. instrumental in the capture of saddam hussein and killer of al-zarqawi. his memoir has been released in paperback, at a time when iraq and afghanistan are facing renewed and violent insurgencies. pleased to have stanley mcchrystal back at the table. welcome. >> thank you, charley. appreciate it. >> charlie: we want to talk about where you are today, going forward and look back where you have advantage and experience of insight. afghanistan. where are we on your judgment on the ground as they plan to leave
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most troops by 2014 and maybe all. >> we're if a sensitive period in afghanistan but in the last 15 years, what hasn't been. militarily and security-wise there have been a lot of gains and they are shown on the ground in the relative life of the people. i think in terms of government, there's been great problems, internal to the afghan government, there's been a real difficulty in getting local governments adequate, competent, local administration technocrats down to a local level and then with them to be a government. the third which i think people forget sometimes is i think the afghan people have moved to a different place. i think that, particularly young people, not just those in school we talk so much about, but those
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who maybe have graduated from school and after dwaun females and a lot of other afghans are not ready to go back in time to pre-9/11, to 1990, 1978. when people talk about afghanistan and what are happen in the future, they immediately pull out a history book and say this is what will happen, i think it's a different afghanistan. they're still fraught with dangers because the political weakness could break into violence in the groups. i don't think the taliban can take over. i don't think they're strong enough. but i think there's a tremendous amount of uncertainty and the afghan people are plagued by the what happens next question. >> charlie: what mistakes did the united states and its allies make in afghanistan? >> a number. i'm going to include afghans in our allies. if we go back just to 9/11 and say that we went in sort of unexpectedly after the al quaida
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elements that were there, we suddenly found ourselves having toppled the taliban government without really having thought what next. now we have a country that had been through about 20 years of war, at that point. it was badly damaged, had very little infrastructure or personal capital, human capital in terms of putting towards governance and whatnot, and we thought we could do things more cheaply than we did. we thought we could see the germans would do the police, the italians the courts, the americans the army and a few other things and we would slide out and that was not realistic. it was going to take a much bigger international effort. in our haste and sometimes our ignorance, we allowed a number of what i call non-traditional leaders, warlords in many cases, people to gather economic, political and sometimes military power, we allowed them to get into places sometimes where they'd been before, and what that signaled to the afghan
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population is here we go again, we are going back to the bad old days that really was what preceded the taliban. so the afghan people said, well, we're just leaving the taliban period. the danger is we're going to go back to what we hated about the pre-taliban period. so i think we lost confidence among many afghans during the 2001 to 2004 period. the taliban saw opportunity, they came back in and they said, look, what's happening? you're going back to the bad old days and the americans are not going to solve your problem, and they started to find fertile ground, not initially in huge places but slowly. so they were able to grow up their political power and in some cases military. so we made mistakes in not seeing that happen early enough, not reacting to it strongly enough when we did. we were underresourced in many ways, but probably most we were under-resourced in understanding. we didn't study the problem enough.
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we didn't learn the language enough. we didn't take a long-term, truly consistent, focused approach to it. >> charlie: we did not leave a residual force there. do you believe, if there had been a residual force of perhaps 10,000 soldiers or more, that we would not see the conflict we see today? >> there's no way to guarantee that, but i think the chances are that we would have had a better situation there now. i think the demonstration of continued partnership with the government of iraq could have been a factor that would have given the sunnis more confidence that they were going to have an ability to be more fairly and -- >> charlie: and perhaps we would have been able to persuade the prime minister there as well. >> we certainly lost a terrific amount of leverage with the prime minister when we were gone. now, i understand the desire to be gone, but i think that it also signaled to the region that
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we had touched the stove and it was too hod hot -- hot and we were going to withdraw our hands. i think where we don't want to stay places where huge numbers of people, we must stay engaged in parts to have the world. >> charlie: if we had left a residual force, what would they have done? >> i think largely training, professionalization of iraqi forces, logistic support and things, but, to a certain degree, they would have also been a demonstrated commitment, a demonstrated partnership. >> charlie: if you look at iraq, the president prepared to negotiate to keep a residual force there. it wasn't like we didn't want to have one, it was the negotiations, as i understand it, were unsuccessful. >> that's my understanding as well. >> charlie: and may be unsuccessful in afghanistan as well. >> may be, indeed? and then you have the reality that the iraqi foreign minister is saying to the afghans, don't make the mistake we did and not keep some americans there, but
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they may. which brings me to this question. you were one of the people who had a relationship with hamid karzai. i don't him. either h he's just purely political and likely corrupt and yet, after all america's done, he would not be in power without america, he seems so resentful. >> there's a saying that says give somebody something and the first person they hate is you. and bob comer wrote a paper near the end of the vietnam war that said the paradox of counterinsurgency is the client state that you are helping finds itself less committed to it than you do. the donor cares more than the
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recipient. i think in the case of afghanistan there's a number of things at work here. first, i think many of the afghan people are trying to come to grips with what they think is imminent abandonment, and i think that many of them are trying to steel themselves that we are going to leave so they are emotionally and physically -- >> charlie: because it has happened before. >> that's correct. i think president karzai -- and i certainly wouldn't presume to do a psychological study -- but i think if you see his relationship with the united states, it's very practical things, he doesn't want to be portrayed as a puppet. >> charlie: a washington man. that's right. >> charlie: give us a sense of how you would engage him by showing him respect, by trying to gain his confidence, by trying to disavow him of his worst instincts. >> i think i have no secret. i think it's just dealing with
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people. the first thing i did was view him as an elected leader of a nation, not as a client of the united states that worked for me or was dependent upon us. he was a sovereign leader of a nation. when i first went to see him the first time, it was not tradition for americans to be in anything but our battle uniform, but i took my dress green uniform for my first meeting and went to see him in that, which was my attempt to show him special respect and almost like i was presenting my credentials as i was an arriving person. i also tried to communicate to him that this was not only his nation, this was his war and that i was the commander of nato troops but, in reality, i was supporting the afghan army's war. he never viewed it as a war. he viewed the war in afghanistan as something they were reluctantly allowing the west to
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fight on their territory because it benefited them but they didn't like that. what i tried to do is convince him this is a war for national survival and it's your war and you have to take the role as commander-in-chief in doing that. i don't claim that we got all the way to that, but i made efforts to establish that. >> charlie: what are the three or four things you think are essential to communicate to young people at yale or if you were asked to come to west point or annapolis or the air force academy and say the same thing to future military leaders? >> absolutely. first off, and i'll keep it fairly associated -- fairly focused on things associated with war -- sometimes we say we think of war or will conquer a piece of ground or do anything that's physical -- war is about people. the one who wins is the one who thinks it's won, the one who's losing is the one who thinks
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it's losing or has lost, and the population decides which side wins. that's very counterintuitive when you take an empirical look at war. the first thing,eth about people. so to the degree you are not just moving stuff, you are influencing people. the second is we say the general must have or military leaders must have a great strategy. in reality, i've come to believe you can do strategy pretty quickly. you and i could sit here in an hour and come out with a workable strategy. the genius is implementing it. to implement it marines you've got to do -- means you have to do a number of things. first, articulate it clearly, constantly and have it understood. people have to believe that you are absolutely committed to it and you will provide the kind of focus -- if you state your strategy different every day, they wait till the next day to hear the one they like and withhold action. they have to believe it's
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consistent commitment. they have got to believe that they are part of it. you've got to convince people -- your soldiers, civilians and the people -- that this is a strategy that they not only will benefit from but they must contribute to. so they don't want to see general mcchrystal strategy, they want to see our strategy and they have to accept that. so it becomes a people exercise at every level. then i think the last i would say is it is about building trust. if there's anything i've come to believe, and i go back and i look at the 2004 dream team, you say i'm going to build a great team, so you say i'm going to go get great talent and put this talent together, that does not make a great team. a great team has talent but the other component is shared consciousness which is a combination of trust, common
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purpose and informed contextual understanding, so, together, this entity believes in the same thing and understands, is informed enough to do that well. then you put those together and, suddenly, you have the necessary ingredients to have a truly effective team. >> charlie: did you support all the president's recommendations for afghanistan? >> i was asked whether i would recommend a july 11 beginning of pull forces out -- >> charlie: right. and he asked me could i accept that, point blank, and i said, yes, i could. and i still can. >> charlie: everybody is trying to understand the president and leadership and a range of domestic and foreign issues. give me a sense from your contact with him as a leader, as a commander-in-chief and as a president. >> of course, i have a very limited ap apperture on the
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president. what i found is he thought very analytically about afghanistan from the beginning from when he took the presidency in january of 2009. he'd thought about it. i think he was frustrated because, as he was trying to once it, he was being given a drum pete of decisions that had to be made before he had time to completely internalize what the situation was. so i think he was being asked to make another commitment, first almost the day he took over. so i think that caused great frustration, and what that did was it caused him to be skeptical of the information he was getting and whether people were trying to push him too fast. the problem is events in the battlefield, you know, push that. i think the next part is i think he -- and i'm speculating on this -- but i think he had a natural lack of familiarity with
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how the military works. anyone would. that is not a criticism. anyone who deals with a different culture or group of people, it takes a while to get that. if you're doing it really sort of for the first time, as the president of the united states, you're not only trying to feel more comfortable in the culture but you're doing it as their commander. so i think he was trying very hard to balance the fact that he had responsibilities as a commander, loyalty and leadership. military have a demeanor that they develop over many years. we wear uniforms that overtly describe where we have been, what we've done, what our rank is, whatnot and, in some ways, we benefit from the fact it looks impressive and people can ooh and ah and sometimes when you enter a room you get more respect than you as an individual have earned. so we sometimes use that persona, we feel comfortable in it, but, at the same time, it
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creates a divide between us and other people. >> charlie: tell me about how you see navy seals and what they represent and what kind of person comes out of that training. >> sure. and i'm going to expand it to include the special operators i worked with. so the navy seals were part of the special operations unit. they have decided to volunteer for a more difficult but more elite type service and in many cases i think they're looking to belong to something that challenges them as individuals but allows them to sit at a table with people they admire and be considered an equal. and that's a very addictive feeling. if you're suddenly around people that would otherwise be your heros and they look at you as somebody that they respect. they are head strong, often. you can't lead them the same way you lead conventional troops,
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you've got to engage them. in fact, the the best way i found to engage really good special operators is not to tell them what to do, but to describe a problem. you say, i've got this problem, do you think it can be solved? and they say, we think so. you say how? they describe it. then you say would you be willing to do that, even though it might be a very dangerous mission, and they make the call. >> charlie: what are you training? is it toughness of mind? >> it's problem solving and it is problem solving not just from a logical sense but from an emotional sense. if you give me a problem and you say solve that problem and you give me a bunch of things i can't do or limits and resources, then i can come back and say, i can't do it, i don't have enough money or time and we stay mediocre. i had a boss that commanded in
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mogadishu. he had some aircraft that wouldn't work. he said i want it fixed and has mealy-mouthed answers. he says, whatever equipment you have to buy, i'll buy. whatever experts you have to hire, i'll come in and train, i'll do. whatever other exercises you need to do, i will schedule, no excuses, no constraints, no excuses. suddenly, you take away from people the idea that they've got a ready reason why they can't be great. >> charlie: you take away the "but." >> exactly. >> charlie: you're teaching at yale. you have something called the mcchrystalle group. you're writing another book that will capture the essence of these ideas. what is this all about? >> they're all related. i'm fascinated about leadership in the current environment. what i would tell you is mics
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persons in iraq and reinforced in afghanistan is for many years ago frederick taylor came up with management, we worked at management to where we were very efficient and thought we would be very effective. what i think happened is you can only get the most efficient solution, you can solve for y for how much x you need only if you really know what y is. we're in a world now where things are changing so fast, we no longer know what the requirement is for tomorrow, so we can't build a perfect process because we don't know what the output has to be. so the new holy grail in our view is adaptability, building an organization that is organically, automatically designed to be adaptable. it is by necessity designed to look for moving targets,
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developing good enough solutions constantly to do that. in that vein, two former seals who worked for me and a young student who was a very bright guy, we are co-writing a book about this system which we call cross lead and it will show the history of it and not just military examples but business and government examples we have been researching and some that our firm mcchrystal group has been partnering with companies to do. we don't work in defense or government, we don't do a lot of what people expect ex-military to do. we are partnered with a very different part of the environment and envoying it. >> charlie: great to have you. thank you very much. >> charlie: "my share of the task: a memoir" now in paperback. back in a moment. stay with us. >> charlie: raymond odierno is here. he is a four-star general and
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the 38th chief of staff of the united states army. best known for successfully implementing the 2007 surg and for his unit's capture of saddam hussein exactly 10 years ago. i am pleased to welcome general odierno to this table. >> thank you. great to be here. >> charlie: take me back to that moment and what that meant. >> at the time, it was important. we had really been looking for him for about six months. we started in about june of 2003, and we had figured out early on we were going about it wrong in the beginning. you know, we had the cards and you had the faces on the cards and we thought they were somehow related but they weren't. what it was about is understanding who is trustful in the circle. had to do with family, people he grew up with. working with our special operations forces, we started to put the puzzle together.
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we probably did 30, 40 raids thinking we were close and then finally on december 13th, we got him. we thought we had a pretty good lead. i remember waiting and getting the call that we had captured "number bun," which was the code. at the time, it was very important. we went in and toppled his regime. with him still out there, there was always a question of what would that mean, so i think it was important for us to capture, to make sure he would never come back and terrorize the iraqi people. >> charlie: what did we learn from him? >> well, i'm not sure how much we learned. i think we learned a little bit about the inner workings of the government. we learned about how, in fact, he fooled all his people that worked for him, you know. >> charlie: that's the interesting point. >> yeah, it is. >> charlie: almost, he was trying not to fool the united states. >> right. >> charlie: but his own people so they would be in fear, and the iranians.
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>> yes. what was interesting was, my time in iraq, all the generals i talked to are part of the regime and they still are to this day. they will still argue we had nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, they have been there and moved and hidden, they still believe it. >> charlie: that's what they thought? >> they still believe it today and that we just didn't find them. so it's very interesting. people always ask, how do we -- well, when your people closest to you and your generals think you have it, then you understand why we certainly believe he had them as well. it's very interesting. as i look back and say to myself why didn't he just let the inspectors come in? but for him that showed weakness. he had to continue to show that he was in charge of that regime, that he was a leader in that region and by admitting he didn't have these weapons, i think he felt it would show he had a significant amount of
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weakness. >> charlie: do you think he thought we would never attack? >> i absolutely believe that. i think he thought he would be able to handle it and we wouldn't come in there. >> charlie: that it would be a light attack. >> that it wouldn't be what it was. that it wouldn't be a regime change. that we would put pressure on him and maybe negotiate more. there's various opinions. but he miscalculated. in the future, i worry about miscalculations by other leaders based on their interpretation of our actions. >> charlie: this is a quote, fred caigen said about you and general petraeus in 2008 after you just returned from iraq, he said great commanders often come in pairs, david petraeus and raymond odierno can now be added to the list. he said the subordinate in every successful campaign pair has played a key role in designing and implementing the campaign plan and history does not always
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appreciate such contributions. in your words, why did the surge work? all of us understand that the awakening was taking place and you therefore put in additional american troops, but it has to be much more complicated than that. >> i would argue it's a bit opposite. the awakening happened when they realized we were putting more troops in. >> charlie: ah. but they were very small. so what had happened is we had gone through a time of almost civil war between the sunn sunnd shia. but when the americans came at greater numbers, we covered more areas and the people felt more comfortable coming forward because they were tied of the violence. al quaida had worn out its welcome on the sunni side but didn't want interference from iran. so when we decided to put more people on the ground, it gave them more confidence and that's
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when they really started to come forward so, in my mind, they were ready to do it. we then provided them the security to do it. there is also a couple of other things. you know, it was about getting out among the population, it was about us understanding we had to be out there with the iraqis and the iraqi army and the police to make them feel comfortable and secure and once they felt secure they would come forward and tell us who the individuals who weren't trying to provide peace and security in the region. so it was about getting out among the people, regaining their trust, and with the more additional forces that we had, it enabled us to do that and enabled us to then conduct more broader operations and more specific, targeted operations on to only those individuals that were leading and conducting the violence inside of iraq. so it enabled us to do that together with our special operations forces. so all of that came together. for me the big realization in all of this was we were always
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focused inside of baghdad. i had a conversation with a couple of the iraqi leaders when i initially got over there for the second time and they told me really the key is the outside of baghdad, the ring around baghdad. that's really what controls what goes on inside of baghdad. then we uncovered a map in one of our raids from al quaida, and control the outskirts of baghdad. so i then realized, okay, that's what we have to focus on. we have to control the access to baghdad. so we put a lot of effort into putting more people into baghdad but also taking control north, south, east, west of baghdad and putting a ring around it and made it very difficult for people to come in and out. so it was a combination of all those says and that's why we needed the additional people to allow us to provide better security. in realty, the success was on the backs of the young commanders, captains, colonels
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and soldiers who executed this and did it with the ability to adapt and the flexibility they showed, the ingenuity they showed in executing this was important. so what i learned as leaders, i have to give them right and left limits and let them operate and what they were able to achieve was significant and we see the same thing going on in afghanistan as well. >> charlie: much has been written that you went to iraq as one person, as one officer and came out of iraq as a different kind of army officer. >> yeah. >> charlie: in your own words. i would just say i think it's mischaracterized a little bit. >> charlie: a little bit... but we all changed. we all learn. the key to being a leader is you have to continue to constantly learn. >> charlie: what did you learn? >> a couple of things. i learned, first, in order to be successful in this environment
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and the future environments, you've got to take a multipronged approach. the thing i learned most is you have to ask the question why. why is something happening. it's not that it happened or what happened, it's why it happened. if you understand why something happened, you can pick the tool that's the best tool to solve that problem. in some places, we were picking the wrong tool to solve a problem. you have to understand, some of the tools are you have to use full military power to do it, some is you might have to use economic ability, you might have to do some social things, some political things, but each -- if you figure out why something happened then you can come up with the right solution and i think, early on, i didn't think about the why enough, but as i grew in more experience, i understood that we had to understand why this event was happening and then, once we
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understood that, we could figure out the right tools, or we could give the commanders the right information so they could figure out the right tools to use. i think that's what i learned and why, as i look to the future, as i develop our leaders of the future, it's about them understanding how to operate in these complex environments, and you must understand the socioeconomic aspects, the culture and everything else -- >> charlie: and the religious. -- and the religious so you can determine why something happened and come up with a much better solution to solve the problem. >> charlie: that's what you're trying to teach the young officers at west point to go into in the army? >> that's right. in all our military schools, our command, general staff colleges, war colleges, we are changing how we do this. >> charlie: there is this and you think this is an accurate criticism that, in iraq and afghanistan, we didn't use -- even if we asked the question why -- or you asked the
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question, we didn't use the tools as well as we would have liked, for whatever reason, whether corruption or security issues. the employment of those cultural, economic, social, religious understandings did not come into play in the way you envisioned? >> in the beginning for sure. as we learned more, we got a hell of a lot better at it, that's what i would say. there's a couple of lessons i learned. you know, in terms of when you come into a place where what i call there's instability -- the other term we would look at is what were the drivers of instability -- so what really was driving instability? was it insecurity? fear? the fact nobody had any jobs? was it the fact that there's a combination of no jobs and trying to raise a family? and, so, what we had to figure
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out is once we figured out what was driving the instability, that allowed us to put the right tools -- because that's what we learned, you have to understand the drivers of instability, what is happening, what is causing this. and, you know, we learned that it's a joint effort, has to be an inter-agency effort, intergovernmental, and even with non-governmental organizations, you have to find out where you have to have common objectives and goals and work together to solve those. it took a while for us to understand that and for some of the other organizations to trust and work with us, working together and building strong relations with our own state department. so that happened on the ground. we don't want that to happen again. we want the relationships built prior where we understand our own culture and what we're
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trying to accomplish so, if we have to go somewhere else, we're prepared to deal in the environment we'll be asked to operate in. >> charlie: i think of general sherman who said war is hell, but, at the same time, it is often said, that is the military people most of you will who least like to go to war. >> anybody who's experienced war will never want to do it again, unless they have to, because they understand the sacrifices, they understand the chaos, they understand the sacrifice that goes on. you know, unfortunately, i have several friends and several young men and women who i know personally who have given their lives for this country, who have been severely injured for their country, who did it because they want to protect our security, so i will be prepared and will do everything i can to get our soldiers prepared to do that. but those of us who have
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experienced it, you don't want to do it unless you have to. but when we do it, we'll be damn good at it when we do because it helps preserve our young men and women which is our national treasure. >> charlie: that's what the country and the president expect of you. >> yes. >> charlie: thank you. thank you very much. >> charlie: major general h.r. mcmaster is here, commander of the army's maneuver center for excellence in fort benning, georgia. in 2005 and 2006, led the third armored calvary regiment in iraq. and directed the joint anti-corruption task force in kabul, afghanistan, from 2010 to 2012. last year chuck hagel nominated him for his third star, the rank of lt. general, and in july will start heading up the think tank. well with come. >> great to be with you. >> charlie: you as well.
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tell me what your new responsibilities are. >> it's a real privilege to serve in any capacity but it's exciting to join an organization whose mission is to deter conflict, respond to crises and if necessary fight and win a future war. as americans, we want to give our forces every advantage we can give them and the first order of business is to lay a conceptual foundation that defines the war and how to prepare our forces to fight and win in future armed conflicts. >> charlie: are we now prepared to fight two wars at the same time? >> it's clear from public statements recently that old defense tragedy of fighting two wars simultaneously is no longer feasible given the size of the force and the capabilities and the projections for the defense
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budget. the key as general odierno and chief of staff and the vice chief of staff have spoken about in this past week is we believe the army can do the minimum to is support the current defense strategy which is to fight one major contentiony operation, hold on and be able to respond to that one later as a foresizing of about 450,000 but that's cutting it close. of course, there are dangers that will fall below that level but, of course, as military officers we don't make those decisions. in a democracy you get the army the people pay for and it's our job as general officers and leaders to do the best we can with those resources and make sure we do right by the nation and our soldiers. >> charlie: let me talk about something you write about with interest which is why we like to read what you say, the first the revolution in military affairs. what do you mean by that? >> this orthodox, the revolution
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in military affairs gained moment imin the 1990s and sett us up for a lot of difficulties in both afghanistan and iraq. and it's the idea that advances in technology and in particular communications technologies, information technologies, computing power, precision munitions had made war wholly new and the future wars are going to exhibit a high degree of discontinuity with all the wars that had gone before. the assumption buzz these technologies would make war fast, cheap and efficient and allow us to dominate the the opponent. the language surrounding it was pretty arrogant. >> charlie: a lot came out of the war in '91. such superiority. >> it did. there was a misunderstanding that led to the gulf war, a lot. the conventional wiz come in the wake of the gulf war is the
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technology that demonstrated in the gulf war would be device nigh the future cars, but it undervalued the training given along with the technology and undervalued the iraqi's approach to the war. i think you can say there are two fundamental ways to fight the u.s. military, asymmetrically and stupid and i think the iraqis in 1991 chose stupid m. of them fought with great courage and honor, but they were overmatched in ways they could not even imagine because they had been at war with the iranians from '80 to '88 and that was the infantry walking at them, now they had armor formations that could fire and move forward at the same time and had forces that were confident and well trained. so these aspects of our overmatch were underappreciated. >> charlie: who fought the best asymmetrical war against the united states? >> all our adversaries have tried to some degree or another.
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you can go back obviously to the frontier wars, you know, and the wars against native american tribes which were fundamentally asymmetrical. i think you can look at the fights that we've had in the philippines, the philippine insurrection, fundamentally asymmetrical. >> charlie: asymmetrical means -- >> it's common sense. if you see an enemy has certain strengths, don't impail your self on that strength, you go around it and take advantage of weaknesses. >> charlie: many revolutionary forces are asymmetrical. >> they are because they come at the problem set from a position of military weakness so they have to organize military operations in a way that allows them to come at our strengths and fight us on their own terms. >> charlie: did the insurgency in iraq have that ability? >> initially what we encountered there was a decentralized,
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localized, hybrid insurgency that coalesced over time. what was trike strewing about this insurgency and the insurgency in afghanistan is they continually evolved based on our -- how they saw our responses to their actions against us. for example initially the iraqi insurgency was driven toward inflicting casualties on you are. saddam handed out copies of blackhawk down and said kill americans and they'll leave. when that didn't work, they attacked infrastructure and make people miserable. then they began to attack nation's iraqi forces. then ultimately form an alliance between former is saddamists ad
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jihadists and al quaida and they began to perpetuate and accelerate a civil war and out of the chaotic environment establish role carol in certain territories. >> charlie: but the insurgency drove a wedge between them. >> ultimately, it did. i think we were behind in the beginning bhainl based onig new orleans of the problem set at the had quite a bit to do with the orthodoxy and the revolutionary affairs would be we would be able to conduct rapid war neglecting the human dimension of the war. war is a contest of wills. we were in denial to a certain extent. we didn't want to acknowledge this was an insurgency, a threat to vital interests and ability to consolidate the initial military gains in iraq and get
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to a sustainable political outcome there. we maybe didn't adapt fast enough when the insurgency evolved. you saw that adaptation at the end of 2006, beginning of 2007 when it was clear the dominant feature of the war in iraq had become a destructive civil war that still had a problem with insurgency and trans-national terrorism associated with it. but then we were able in 2007 to reassess the situation, ask the right questions and develop a strategy and operational plan to address it. >> charlie: is it fair to say that the modern american textbook on counterinsurgency came out of the iraq war? >> i think so. there can be no textbook on insurgency.
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i think people get confused because. >> charlie: did you write a manual? >> we did, but in our army, doctrine helps you conceptualize. it isn't supposed to give you the answer. the great philosopher of war said military theory is not to accompany you to the battlefield and tell you what to do. it's like an old professor prepares a student but then the student has to go on and make his own way. so it's not designed to give you a strategy. so i think when some people, you know, criticize -- i think now what's become fashionable is to say that didn't work, counterinsurgency theory didn't work, look what happened in iraq. of course, that was never meant to be a strategy. it can help you ask the right questions and access previous best practices but ultimately you have to understand each of these problem sets on their own terms. >> charlie: second policy is zero dark thirty is a fall lassie and we know -- is a
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fallacy and we know what that means, that special opens can take care of everything. >> the danger of these fallacies is they confuse important capabilities for strategies and for the answer to future wars. so just as the r.m.a. assumes that you can solve the problem of future war by applying fire power on to land from the aerospace and maritime domains, the zero dark thirty fallacy is all you need is a global s.w.a.t. teams to do raids against enemy organizations and you can do it efficiently for relatively low cost. of course, what our special operations forces do is amazing. it's a tremendous capability. it's keeping us safe. they're incredible. >> charlie: but how does that work with what you said? >> our enemies apply countermissions to all the capabilities. dispersion, concealment, intermingling in populations. there are technological
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countermeasurers. and all enemy organizations are not the same. we because of global interests and vital interests and those of our key partners and allies, you know, it can be placed at risk by nation states and the field and forces of nation states and also these networked organizations that are quite dangerous because a lot of these organizations, you can look at hezbollah as an example, some of the insurgent organizations -- >> charlie: syria. i think in syria. if you look at i.s.i. there in syria, if you look at hezbollah's operations in syria itself, these are non-state actors who have capabilities previously associated only with the field and forces of nation states and those are destructive weapons, communications, ability to mobilize forces, sufficient financial. >> charlie: are they dependent on nation states to provide them with the weapons they use? >> yes. so this is this nexus i think
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between hostile facings and these forces. so for example, what would hezbollah be without iran, really, and, you know, what would al quaida and associated groups be without at least the ability to establish support basis and safe havens been the boundaries of certain nation states? so i think it's important for us to be able to deter, you know, nation states as well as non-state actors and respond to crises involving the field and forces of nation states and the so-called hybrid enemies. >> charlie: but there's a strong sentiment in the country and you hear it in terms of conversations that a lot of people look and think that the future of modern war fair is paramilitary and special ops kinds of forces.éu0v>> right. >> charlie: and sometimes it is characterized as sort of a counterterrorist war fair rather than counterinsurgency wa warfa. >> i think that's a fair statement i call it a rating
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mentality because it doesn't get you involved in all the difficult things on land, you know, like people and populations and security. but, of course, you know, these enemies are able to operation in an amongst populations. they obviously go to areas that are particularly week, not under state control, and, so, it's important to work with partners and we have to have the capability ourselves. >> charlie: if i remember correctly, you made your first interpretation in terms of the analysis of the vietnam war. >> yes. >> charlie: part of what came out of the vietnam war is hearts and mind. >> right. >> charlie: that seems to me to still be relevant to modern war faiwarfare, if, in fact, its counterinsurgency you're fighting. >> that's right. >> charlie: because you depend on them for intelligence, information. >> and what we see, what is comorntion i think, to -- common, i think, to many of the conflicts, and all have unique dynamics associated with them, but what's common in syria,
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what's common with the conflict in yemen, northern nigeria, libya today, what you saw in -- >> charlie: in most pot spots, the ukraine. >> -- you see the transnational terrorist organizations that take advantage of political competitions for power and survival and portray themselves as patrons and protectors of one of the aggrieved parties and gain access. once they gain access, you see what they've done in syria, they establish control through brutality, murder, intimidation. and, so, the only way that you can really defeat those organizations is for some force to be able to lift that fear, to lift that intimidation off the population. >> charlie: but we have no force doing that other than the force of the syrian army today
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and they have their own fear element of warfare. >> that's right. i'm not saying we should do this, it's a policy, certainly, but i don't think we want to be delusional about the ability to achieve or help the syrian people achieve some sort of sustainable outcome in syria that does anything less than establish security under some sort of political -- >> charlie: where does it come from the syria? >> that's the problem. the society is becoming more fragmented as the cycle of sectarian violence continues. >> charlie: and even elements of people fighting each other with levels of violence. >> right. i think what's important about the syrian problem is how we think about it. i mean, you know, we've got to really ask the first order of questions as we have here, i think. what is the real nature of the
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conflict? there's been great work done by the international crisis group and others that summarizes the nature of the conflict and given the nature of the conflict that can be done. with all of these problems, these are the ones i mentioned, there is an internal dimension which in syria is getting worse and worse. there's also an external dimension to the problem and what some have suggested is the need for the international community to work on this problem from the outside-in and to try to prevent, obviously, you know, the conflict from expanding geographically, becoming more destructive and more of a humanitarian crisis. but to try to begin to work toward some sort of a political outcome that can break that cycle of violence and then ultimately there has to be some kind of internal political accommodation or settlement that removes support, you know, for these extremist groups who find it in their interest to perpetuate the violence. what happens in a lot of these cases is you have sort of a war-time economy that begins to be self-perpetuating and
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powerful people inside of a power va yiewm, really, who see it as in their interest to perpetuate the conflict. >> charlie: the marlin perkins at the mutua mutual of omaha wid kingdom fallacy which is perkins, wherever he was staying, was not only the battlefield of wildlife but sent jim fowler to do that. your point is? >> we're searching for easy solution to the problem of the war and one of the easy solutions we're in danger of seizing upon is we'll get other armies to the that war stuff for us and be like marlin perkins, stand off, provide capability, advisers, so forth. but this ignores the important nature of war which is it's political. so it depends on the interests aligned with partners you want to fight on your behest and has
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to do with the interest of these various groups. >> charlie: general h.r. mcmaster, thank you. >> always great to talk to you, thank you. captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org
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